Single player action meets MMO missions, with surprising results.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (or KAR for the rest of this review) is an interesting proposition, which answers some very fresh questions about RPGs as a genre. What would happen if you added God of War’s combat to a role playing game? How about if you applied MMO levelling and mission structure to a purely single-player experience? And what if you gave players some real freedom in how they played, as opposed to locking them into one structured character based on early decisions? The short answer is that you would end up with a very interesting an enjoyable game indeed. 38 Studios have finely honed a title with enough breadth and diversity really appeal to gamers looking for something a little different: part action combat, part RPG, and all wrapped in one of the best fantasy packages seen in quite some time. And considering some of the recent missteps taken in the world of RPGs recently (Mass Effect turning into a cover shooter, Final Fantasy destroying its own franchise from within, no one buying the brilliant Witcher 2, and MMOs all channelling WOW), it’s fair to say that this title could be a shot in the arm for the flagging genre. It all starts so simple – you awake from the dead with no destiny. Now, that’s a big deal in Amalur, where everyone has their fate planned out for them, so your introduction throws a real spanner in the works of some pretty epic events, such as civil war, inter-species betrayal and much more. The main plot is alright, if a little predictable, but simply serves as a frame on which to hang a shedload of missions and sidequests.
If you have ever wondered what an MMO feels like, but didn’t fancy talking to others, queuing for dungeons or grinding to level, then KOA is probably the game for you
You see, you’ll meet many people, with many agendas, and can opt to help them as you see fit. No morality bars here, you can simply do as you wish to achieve the ends you desire, although most choices do seem to be some form of good. Over the course of many hours, you will explore the realms of Amalur, from deep swamps and expansive deserts, to mountains, snowy passes, Fae (the game equivalent of elves) realms, forgotten kingdoms, and much more in both main plotlines, sidequests, and complete separate mission chains. Highlights include a battle to rescue a fallen city, stopping a demon-summoning zealot, reviving and re-containing an ancient mage, and much more. Epic doesn’t really do justice to the levels of intrigue here, and where I often found Skyrim to feel a little too huge to really feel the quests had a lot of global impact, KAR does a great job of dropping you right in the centre of some epic quests and really making you feel like a legendary hero. And part of this is down to the joy of the combat. Offering one button combat will rightly scare many people, but the method of control here is really quite awesome (if clearly made with a controller in mind – mouse combat takes a little while to get used to). You can equip two weapons from a wide variety, and also use magic/skills to bolster the options on offer. Simple repeat clicks and pauses can really change up an attack pattern, and weapon switching adds an additional layer of choice in fights. For example, my favourite combos included AOE attacks with a pair of Chakrams (spinning discs which are thrown around the body), before diving in to close combat with a pair of daggers for some in-your-face death dealing. I could also then bring together spread enemies with a wide area spell, before dropping a giant ice rock onto anyone fortunate enough to survive. This epic combat doesn’t make the game too easy, or even repetitive, however. There is enough variance in enemy types to really require some forethought to combat, and the continual unlocking of new moves through levelling means you just have to try out new moves to add to your repertoire. KOA also nicely sidesteps the traditional mage/rogue/warrior roles, by initially offering those as development trees, but letting the player choose how to spend upgrade points, meaning hybrids are a very real possibility. That’s right, if you have ever wanted to wield a greatsword while throwing fireballs, you now can. KOA also does something truly great by showing all tree unlocks from the outset, so you can work towards a build that contains all the moves you want. And best of all, if you end up with something you think is nerfed (which I am not sure is possible), you can simply spend a few coins and reset all your points, to redistribute how you see fit. Now, when you pick up that epic robe and staff kit that looks awesome, you can simply re-spec yourself to be able to use it. It really is a wonderful addition for those gamers who worry that they may miss out on something cool. But I digress. If you have ever wondered what an MMO feels like, but didn’t fancy talking to others, queuing for dungeons or grinding to level, then KOA is probably the game for you. It manages to capture much of the epic feel of a fully fledged MMO, without descending into a lot of the areas which keep players from returning after the first few months. Yes, at times the dungeons are a little shallow, but the overall blend of great combat, constant upgrading and change, and engaging world and characters really do lead to something fresh and innovative. And for that alone, it is worth every penny.
The Bad: Can get repetitive; raid-style dungeons still lack some depth; cartoony style will put some people off; no 3D options; plays better with a controller, which it feels designed for